In which the O’Sullivan made it 9 from 9 against Skerries (kind of!), Pawel got off the mark and the Bodley A continue to stumble towards promotion.
On Tuesday, the O’Sullivan travelled to Skerries to take on Skerries B in the first of two post-season play-off games – the games are welcome extra rated friendlies, to try make up for the shorter season after a couple of teams pulled out at late notice. We could only muster three for this game – obviously having no lower team to sub from doesn’t help us! – but we were still aiming for a win, having beaten the same team 5-0 earlier in the season. Skerries play upstairs in a local pub; I’d planned on watching Real Madrid v Schalke downstairs before doing a bit of analysis as games finished, but as due to the O’Sullivan game (and their As’ play-off against Trinity), the regular club night was moved downstairs, so most of the pub was, rather strangely, taken up with 8-10 year-olds playing chess. With the match not showing either, I decided I’d put my managerial reputation at stake and jump in on board 4 for a game.
Two wins within the first half an hour brought us to 2-1 down. Ben tried out the Hallowe’en Gambit, though his opponent reacted by unfortunately immediately hanging a piece, and Ben was just a pawn up with a huge development advantage. A couple more pieces fell, a king hunt ensued and mate was delivered after about 20 minutes’ play. A rematch was over even quicker, but of course, only one game counted for the final result!
Liam picked up a couple of pawns, swapped material off and then won his opponent’s last piece to bring about resignation and draw the match level at 2-2. As I’m challenging for promotion to the Armstrong this season, I was kind of expected to win on board 4 in the O’Sullivan, which I did in the end, though it wasn’t as straightforward as it could have been! That just left Declan, who was a pawn up, but though the game went on a good hour after the other three, it ended abruptly when his opponent hung king-rook forks to the same knight in successive moves to see us win the four games on the night for a 3-2 win.
On Wednesday, Pawel played the first of next week’s Armstrong against Phibsboro. I didn’t see much of this game as it ended rather sooner than your usual Armstrong game as a relatively quick draw was agreed; Pawel’s first score of the season after three defeats earlier in the year.
The big game though, without any doubt, was the meeting of St Benildus A and Enniscorthy in the Bodley. This was pretty much a match for the title – though Enniscorthy would maybe still be favourites even if we had a narrow win – but we were hampered by being without Jack, Luke and Luke-Andrew. Still, we started off very promisingly. Sub Declan got in Qb3, forking b7 and d5, and won a pawn. His opponent took a knight, and Declan was left to consider this position –
This is quite a sharp position, with the option of taking either the rook or the knight. Fritz, being Fritz, also suggests 1. Nh4 here, trying to move one of black’s pieces to a worse square. But in the end, it does come down on the side of taking the knight. Declan took the rook, and after 1. QxR Qc4 2. PxN QxN+ 3. Nd2 QxR+ 4. Ke2 Qxa2, black’s a-pawn just marched down the board to victory. It’s a tricky position – both I and Declan’s opponent thought he could hang on with 2. Nd2, but Fritz says this leads to a similar advantage for black as in the game after 2. … Qxb2 3. Nb3 Ne4! (I’d missed this) 4. Be2 (allowing Qxf2+ leads to mate) Qc3+ 5. Kf1 Nd2+ 6. Kg1 NxN and the knight can’t be taken as the rook is hanging with a mate threat. Instead, Fritz says the best is to get castled quickly – 2. Be2 Qxb2 3. 0-0 and a complicated position.
We were going well on all the other boards, and picked up the first result of the match when Seán delivered a bit of a surprise when beating his Ireland under-14 teammate Joshua Redmond with the black pieces. It was a fairly straightforward win, but worth recording –
Joshua Redmond (1428) v Seán Devilly (1158); Bodley Cup round 10; 14/03/15
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. 0-0 e6 5. d3 Nc6 6. Nbd2 Be7 7. h3 Bh5 8. Re1 0-0 9. b3 Re8 10. Bb2 Bd6
White has played the opening very quietly, and has gotten nothing out of it.
11. e4 de 12. de e5
Played to avoid the fork, but it’s maybe not quite the best. On e5, the pawn is already a target for two of black’s pieces, and 13. Nc4 would hit the pawn again. Meanwhile, on e5, the pawn blocks in black’s bishop on d6 and maybe even takes a route to the kingside away from the knight on c6. If this move is an inaccuracy though, it’s not a major one; it just seems to make black’s position slightly more passive or defensive.
13. g4 Bg6 14. Qe2 Qe7 15. Rad1 Nd7 16. Nc4 Nb6?!
Maybe c5 was a more active square. Fritz gives white a bit of a plus here; the first real edge of the game. But still nothing major.
17. NxB PxN 18. Nd2 Rc8 19. Ba3?? (D)
Not an obvious blunder. What did white miss?
19. … Nd4! 20. Qe3 Nxc2 21. BxP?
This actually makes things worse for white. Black has correctly counted the upcoming captures.
21. … NxR 22. RxN Rcd8?
Instead, 22. … Qd7 prepares to win the bishop, and white can resign.
23. BxQ RxQ 24. Bb4 Rc8 25. Bf1 Rd8
25. … Rd4 was more active; a more central square, and it hits the bishop.
The correct choice. 32. … Kh7 is tempting – material up, with the rooks doubled on the second, why bring the king towards the open and the checks instead of tucking it away in a corner hiding while the other pieces prepare for a final assault at the other side of the board? But 32. … Kh7 allows white to steal a draw – 33. Bc4 and black can’t escape the checks. If 33. … RxP 34. Bg8+ Kh8 35. Bf7+ (or anywhere) Kh7 and a draw. If black tries to create an escape route with 33. … g5, it’s still perpetual after 34. Bg8+ Kg6 35. Rf8 Rd7 (to stop Bf7+) 36. Be6 Rd1+ 37. Kg2 Kh7 38. Bg8+ Kg6 39. Bf7+. And after 33. … h5, white shuts in black’s king with 34. g5! and the same draw ensues.
33. Bc4+ Kf6 34. Rf8+ Ke5 35. Bd5 Ra7?!
Rooks don’t like to be shut in like this in endgames. Fritz suggests what I think is a holding move – 35. … Rc2, with the idea that if 36. BxP Rc3 wins a pawn back. But this position is more awkward than it looks.
A big blunder; the pawn was needed on f2 to provide some last shelter for the king. Now white is lost.
36. … Kd4
Mate in one is threatened; the only way to avoid it is to play 37. Bc4 Ra1+ 38. Bf1 Rdd1, but then the bishop is lost. As it turned out, white – maybe having an off day! – missed that and allowed…
37. e5 Ra1# 0-1
An appropriate finish to the game given Seán’s first appearance for the club – in the O’Sullivan earlier this season – had ended when he hung back rank in a completely won position.
That put us 1-0 up, though Declan lost shortly after. However, Finn had won a piece, William had the bishop pair and Desmond was a pawn up – things were looking very good indeed! Finn in particular had torn into his opponent, getting a knight to d6 with check in what ended up as a kind of French, and winning the pawn on b7 as a result. Then in this position –
– Finn played the second-best move, 1. f4 – missing 1. e6+, which simply wins. Fortunately, his opponent missed it too, and after 1. f4 Rhe8 (now 2. e6+?? loses because of the reply RxP+) 2. 0-0 a6 3. e6+, the move came in anyway, albeit that it’s not as strong now as it doesn’t come with tempo on the rook. Still, after 3. … RxP 4. BxB f6 5. Rfe1 h5, things were looking quite rosy, but then Finn saw a ghost and played 6. BxP??, which just helps his opponent back into the game. The bishop may well not emerge, but best is to let black waste time rounding it up while white picks off a pawn or two. The bishop should make it to h6 before being captured, and h6 isn’t exactly an ideal square for the black rook. Maybe rattled by that, Finn sunk back into a passive endgame; his opponent was confident enough when a pawn down in a R+4 v R+3 ending to turn down a repetition of moves and go for the win, which he ultimately got.
Desmond took a draw on board 1 – the club recorded our best win and best draw of the season in this match – when allowing his opponent take a perpetual after his own attack faded into a double-rook ending with a pawn tantalisingly on d2. Meanwhile, two of the form players in the division were playing out the last game, with William up against Mercedes Plaza Reino – both were on a combined 13½/15 coming into the match. William took an advantage into the middlegame, but overlooked what proved a catastrophic exchange on f6, when he had to take back with the g7 pawn. This immediately cost him an exchange, and although he had two bishops and a rook against knight and two rooks, as a couple of pawns started to fall, it was clear he was always struggling to even hold on to a draw. So it proved, and we ended up with a 3½-1½ defeat, having had winning chances on each of the five boards.
So quid nunc? The league table shows we’re still in the running for promotion –
– but we’re now like a hurdler who was way out in front only to hit the last hurdle hard and is now staggering to the line. The next two games are massive; we travel to Curragh next weekend – our game today was a rescheduled game from round 10, so Curragh will still have a match in hand after next weekend. If we can even get a 3-2 win – and play as well as we did today, but with a bit more luck and clinicalness, and that’s well within our means – we’ll have a 7½ point gap with two games left for Curragh…but they then play Bray and Elm Mount, while we face promotion challengers Malahide! And to that, you can add the possibility of our B team doing our Bs another favour, along the lines of their taking two points off Curragh last week. This is going to go right down to the wire – but then given our last few Bodley seasons, we never really expected anything else!